The Brazilian Grand Prix never suffers for passionate fans and despite there be ing no Brazilian driver one the grid, the fans turned out in droves to watch qualifying on Saturday.
Unfortunately, a penalty for Charles Leclerc for an engine change meant that despite what he did on Saturday, he would start 10 places back from his final qualifying position. The rain also kept some of the practice sessions in changeable conditions but for qualifying the clouds only threatened rain but never delivered.
With 12 minutes left in the first session, most of the team began their first attempts. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc led the final practice session so they looked to return to their form after a miserable US Grand Prix performance. Vettel led Leclerc by just 0.036s before Alex Albon jumped both of them with a 1:08.503s. Despite getting balked slightly by traffic, Max Verstappen jumped to the top with a 1:08.242s While the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton struggled to 5th quickest on his initial lap.
Carlos Sainz radioed an issue with his car and immediately boxed while Hamilton radioed that his tires were too hot and needed some cooling. The two Ferrari’s stayed out for a second run with Leclerc jumping up to 2nd. Pierre Gasly put his Toro Rosso in 8th while his teammate, Daniil Kvyat was down in 12th. With one minute left in the session, Sainz had failed to make it back on track. This is difficult because McLaren are trying to protect their best-of-the-rest position in the constructor’s championship.
Out in Q1- Sainz, Stroll, Russell, Kubica, Kvyat
With just 12 minutes left, the teams began their initial attempts in Q2. Mercedes quick out of the box with Lewis Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas. Lewis knew he was out early and that could meant traffic so he slowed the field up to give both he and Valtteri some room. A real head’s up move from the 6-time champ.
Hamilton led Bottas with. 1:08.088s and that was quickly eclipsed by Leclerc but Charles lost out to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Could the Ferrari’s Vettel make it a race? Sebastian clamored over the line a half second off of Red Bull and behind his teammate Charles Leclerc.
The storyline was Haas F1 with both cars seated in the top 10 with Renault on the outside looking in as was Racing Points Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris. Could Haas F1 find some success in Brazil? Time would tell but perhaps the tire heat on this track was hooking up with their chassis and helping them fine the right performance window that has eluded them all season long.
With 3 minutes left, the team began their final laps. The track temperature dropped three degrees between sessions so would this play a role in Haas F1’s performance or help Renault? No one improved their times and perhaps the temps a a brief double-yellow for Giovinazzi’s spin thwarted the hot laps.
If McLaren were exposed with the retirement of Sainz and Norris’s inability to reach Q3, Renault wasn’t taking advantage of it as they both were out in Q2 as well. This left Haas F1 as the midfield contender to take advantage.
Out in Q2- Perez, Norris, Giovinazzi, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg
The ambient temp was 68 degrees with track temp at 87 at the beginning of the session. Five of the top 10 cars are Ferrari powered and The Honda’s of Red Bull and Pierre Gasly was delivering enough power for their chassis to perform well but would the 4-degree track temperature drop change anyone’s destiny in Q3?
With 10 minutes left int he session, the teams came out for their banker laps led by Romain Grosjean with both Haas F1 cars in Q1 for the first time since the Spanish GP in May. Could Mercedes turn the wick up and take pole even though team boss Toto Wolff was not in Brazil?
Hamilton took provisional pole over Bottas but that was eclipsed by Vettel leading Leclerc as Max Verstappen jumped both Ferrari’s for provisional pole despite a scrappy lap. Alex Albon couldn’t keep pace with his teammate Verstappen as he was only 6th quickest.
With just 2:20s left, the cars came out for their final laps and while discussion was centered around the front of the grid, Kimi Raikkonen was still in Q3 doing a terrific job. Verstappen got stuck between a Haas and Raikkonen’s Alfa which wasn’t the optimum place to be for his final lap.
Max extended his advantage but a tenth but was it enough for pole? Leclerc had no answer as he fell behind Lewis Hamilton to 4th. Vettel jumped both Hamilton and Leclerc into 2nd place on the front row while Bottas slid to 5th.
The fastest strategy on paper for the 71-lap Brazilian Grand Prix is a one-stopper, using the red soft tyre for 26 to 29 laps and the white hard for 42 to 45 laps.
The second-quickest way is to run the red soft for 34 to 37 laps, and the yellow medium for another 34 to 37 laps. About as fast as this is actually a two-stopper: with two stints on the soft of 18 to 21 laps each, plus a medium run for 29 to 35 laps. These stints could all be done in any order, with a soft-medium-soft plan potentially making sense as a two-stopper, for example.
The reason for this is that with much warmer conditions expected on Sunday compared to Friday, the hardest compound as well as a possible two-stopper all become much more interesting.
What’s slightly slower is a one-stopper with the medium for 24 to 27 laps, and the hard for 44 to 47 laps.
KEEP AN EYE ON
- Higher temperatures. The weather tomorrow is expected to be warmer again, which could further affect tyre behaviour and therefore race strategy.
- Traffic. The short lap at Interlagos means that getting through traffic will soon become an issue for the frontrunners, again affecting the timing of the stops.
- Safety cars. Interlagos has little run off area, with both free practice sessions yesterday stopped by red flags. This might influence pit stop strategy.
- Leclerc. In Q2, he was faster on mediums than most soft tyre runners. Tomorrow he has to fight his way up the order, but he clearly has the pace.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m07.508s||–|
|5||Alexander Albon||Red Bull/Honda||1m07.935s||0.427s|
|6||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m08.837s||1.329s|
|8||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m08.984s||1.476s|
|12||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m08.919s||–|
|15||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m09.035s||–|
|16||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m09.320s||–|
|17||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m09.536s||–|
|20||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||–||–|
I really enjoyed cheeky Seb during the press conference saying they where surprised by how fast the Honda’s where on the straights and it seemed a little bit suspicious.
Warmer tomorrow huh, I guess Haas is going straight to the back. Sigh.